The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: May 2024

the-16-companies-getting-3-5-billion-monthly-click The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: May 2024

Every week, we share hot SEO news, interesting reads, and new posts in our newsletter, Ahrefs’ Digest.

If you’re not one of our 275,000 subscribers, you’ve missed out on some great reads!

Here’s a quick summary of my personal favorites from the last month:

Best of May 2024

HouseFresh Has Virtually Disappeared From Google Search Results. Now What?

Author: Gisele Navarro, Danny Ashton

tl;dr

HouseFresh’s update to their previous article on how Google is killing independent sites (featured in March).

My takeaway

Major publishers are using an SEO content strategy called “keyword swarming” to drown out smaller sites. Here’s how it works:

  • Big sites identify small sites that have cemented themselves in Google for a specific and valuable term or a specific topic.
  • They publish 10+ articles on the same topic, across multiple portfolio sites.
  • They crowd out the smaller site’s foothold on those topics.

The TIPI Framework

Author: Bryan Casey

tl;dr

How IBM builds and plans its content strategy.

My takeaway

I love the “topic bullseye” framework Bryan created to judge the relevance of topics to your product or service. 

The closer a query is to the bullseye, the higher the conversion rate is likely going to be.

State of the SEO Job Market: Q1 2024

Author: Nick LeRoy

tl;dr

SEO job listings are down -37% in Q1 of 2024 compared to 2023.

My takeaway

It seems like SEO jobs are less stable than before, no thanks to AI and the looming economic uncertainty. However, this doesn’t mean that SEO is dead. 

As Bryan Casey writes, “Search can’t be separated from the web. It’s the operating system of the web.” Search will always exist, and therefore SEO will always exist. The form might change, and it’s up to all of us to adapt.

Heat Death of the Internet

Author: Takahē

tl;dr

Short ‘stories’ about the current Internet that will make you cry.

My takeaway

This article hit me hard in the feels. I wonder if it was because I was younger and naive, but I miss the early Internet days when people were making things for fun, and not because they were trying to squeeze out as much money as possible.

Best of April 2024

Detailed Q3: Analysing The SEO Playbook of Digital Goliaths In-Depth, Every Quarter

Author: Glen Allsopp

tl;dr

Glen’s third report on what the biggest players in SEO are doing.

My takeaway

Seems like most of the major sites are doing one or both things:

  • Acquiring other websites to add to their portfolio or expand in other niches — for example, North Star Network acquired SportsMole for 7-figures, crypto exchange Bullish bought CoinDesk for $75 million, and Valnet acquired CarBuzz for an undisclosed amount.)
  • Diversifying their traffic sources to rely less on Google

Why Ranch-Style SEO Is Your Future-Proof Content Strategy

Author: Bernard Huang

tl;dr

Instead of writing a lengthy, Skyscraper post that covers all angles, split them up into granular, targeted pieces of content that map to the user’s search journey.

My takeaway

I don’t want to rain on Bernard’s parade, and I could be just dumb, but ranch-style SEO does seem to call back to the old days of writing an article for every long-tail keyword. (Albeit with a strong focus on adding information gain, rather than gaming algorithms.)

That said, from what I’ve observed, SERPs are getting more fragmented. Perhaps users are tired of having to scroll through Dostoyevsky-length novels and poor search results to get what they want, so they’re constantly refining their searches and therefore changing the intent of many queries.

Marketing is really a cycle.

You Are Your Moat

Author: Amanda Natividad

tl;dr

Five ideas on how to rise above the forgettable content created by generative AI.

My takeaway

Amanda’s point is this: You—your experiences, observations, triggers, and knowledge—can’t be replaced by AI. So, if you want to make content that stands out, use yourself as the lighthouse.

Morgan Housel calls this “selfish writing”. YCombinator founder, Paul Graham wrote the same in his post on useful writing: “Use yourself as a proxy for the reader”.

What’s beyond targeting keywords, now that generative AI (and SGE) can handle most of them? This is what I’ve been thinking a lot about—and the answer seems to just be “write something interesting.” And you can do this by simply following your nose, especially since I write for people like me too. What I find interesting will likely be interesting to others.

Information Gainz

Author: Kevin Indig

tl;dr

We all agree we need to do better than copycat content. But most people are still creating content the exact same way. (Maybe even worse, now with generative AI.)

My takeaway

To make good content that’ll rank in the future, you need to treat content like a product:

  • Prioritize topics based on user interviews (not search volume).
  • Hire subject matter experts to answer questions that really matter.
  • Monitor quantitative metrics to validate qualitative research with metrics like scroll depth, heatmaps, session recordings, and time-on-site vs average read time.

Best of March 2024

How 16 Companies are Dominating the World’s Google Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

tl;dr

Glen’s research reveals that just 16 companies representing 588 brands get 3.5 billion (yes, billion!) monthly clicks from Google.

the-16-companies-getting-3-5-billion-monthly-click The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: May 2024

My takeaway

Glen pointed out some really actionable ideas in this report, such as the fact that many of the brands dominating search are adding mini-author bios.

example-of-mini-author-bios-on-the-verge The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: May 2024

This idea makes so much sense in terms of both UX and E-E-A-T. I’ve already pitched it to the team and we’re going to implement it on our blog.

How Google is Killing Independent Sites Like Ours

Authors: Gisele Navarro, Danny Ashton

tl;dr

Big publications have gotten into the affiliate game, publishing “best of” lists about everything under the sun. And despite often not testing products thoroughly, they’re dominating Google rankings. The result, Gisele and Danny argue, is that genuine review sites suffer and Google is fast losing content diversity.

My takeaway

I have a lot of sympathy for independent sites. Some of them are trying their best, but unfortunately, they’re lumped in with thousands of others who are more than happy to spam.

estimated-search-traffic-to-danny-and-giseles-sit The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: May 2024
Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele’s site fell off a cliff after Google’s March updates 🙁

I know it’s hard to hear, but the truth is Google benefits more from having big sites in the SERPs than from having diversity. That’s because results from big brands are likely what users actually want. By and large, people would rather shop at Walmart or ALDI than at a local store or farmer’s market.

That said, I agree with most people that Forbes (with its dubious contributor model contributing to scams and poor journalism) should not be rewarded so handsomely.

The Discussion Forums Dominating 10,000 Product Review Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

Tl;dr

Glen analyzed 10,000 “product review” keywords and found that:

  • The ‘Discussions and forums’ SERP feature was present in 7,702 of them (77%).
  • Reddit was present in 97.5% of those.
  • 51% of Reddit’s top-ranking threads currently have spam as a top comment.

My takeaway

After Google’s heavy promotion of Reddit from last year’s Core Update, to no one’s surprise, unscrupulous SEOs and marketers have already started spamming Reddit. And as you may know, Reddit’s moderation is done by volunteers, and obviously, they can’t keep up.

I’m not sure how this second-order effect completely escaped the smart minds at Google, but from the outside, it feels like Google has capitulated to some extent.

john-mueller-seemingly-having-too-much-faith-in-re The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: May 2024

I’m not one to make predictions and I have no idea what will happen next, but I agree with Glen: Google’s results are the worst I’ve seen them. We can only hope Google sorts itself out.

Who Sends Traffic on the Web and How Much? New Research from Datos & SparkToro

Author: Rand Fishkin

tl;dr

63.41% of all U.S. web traffic referrals from the top 170 sites are initiated on Google.com.

data-from-sparktoro The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: May 2024

My takeaway

Despite all of our complaints, Google is still the main platform to acquire traffic from. That’s why we all want Google to sort itself out and do well.

But it would also be a mistake to look at this post and think Google is the only channel you should drive traffic from. As Rand’s later blog post clarifies, “be careful not to ascribe attribution or credit to Google when other investments drove the real value.”

I think many affiliate marketers learned this lesson well from the past few Core Updates: Relying on one single channel to drive all of your traffic is not a good idea. You should be using other platforms to build brand awareness, interest, and demand.

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